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Death on the Nile

Death on the Nile is a clever, witty, well-plotted, beautifully-produced and splendidly acted screen version of Agatha Christie's mystery. It's old-fashioned stylized entertainment with a big cast and lush locations. Peter Ustinov is the fourth actor to play Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot.

Death on the Nile is a clever, witty, well-plotted, beautifully-produced and splendidly acted screen version of Agatha Christie’s mystery. It’s old-fashioned stylized entertainment with a big cast and lush locations. Peter Ustinov is the fourth actor to play Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot.

Anthony Shaffer’s adaptation doesn’t have a hole. When Ustinov reveals the killer in the final drawing room scene it comes as a complete surprise. Every one of the dozen characters floating down the Nile is a suspect. Every one on board could have and might have murdered Lois Chiles, the arrogant millionairess who has stolen her best friend’s fiance.

Shaffer has also created a number of purposely exaggerated characters to complement Ustinov. There’s Angela Lansbury’s tipsy portrayal of a romantic novelist; Bette Davis as a stuffy and overbearing Washington socialite and Maggie Smith as her bitter companion; Jack Warden as an hysterical Swiss physician; I.S. Johar in a marvelously offbeat performance as the manager of the ship on which the murders take place; David Niven as Poirot’s sidekick Colonel Race; and Jon Finch as a Marxist spouting rebel.

But the star is Ustinov and the penetrating mind of his character, Hercule Poirot.

1978: Best Costume Design

Death on the Nile

UK

  • Production: EMI. Director John Guillermin; Producer John Brabourne, Richard Goodwin; Screenplay Anthony Shaffer; Camera Jack Cardiff; Editor Malcolm Cooke; Music Nino Rota; Art Director Peter Murton
  • Crew: (Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1978. Running time: 140 MIN.
  • With: Peter Ustinov Jane Birkin Lois Chiles Bette Davis Mia Farrow Jon Finch
  • Music By: